In 2015 I posted on the US socio-political climate after Trump entered the contest. Animal Farm and Climate Change. The introduction went this way:
George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a masterpiece of a simple story suggesting so many realities of societies. Among many things, it shows how a basic dichotomy mobilizes people (or creatures) for social or political action. The image above expresses the heart of the story whereby some animals took power over the others out of fear of humans.
Consider another dichotomy: Producers Good, Parasites Bad.
People who are astounded by Donald Trump’s candidacy are overlooking how widely and deeply felt is this distinction between those who produce and those who take, and not only in the Tea Party but far beyond. The power arises from the emotional investment in the branding, no matter how illogical or mistaken it may be. Those who don’t feel it, don’t “get it.” Add in the envy of someone so rich he can say anything unbounded by Political Correctness, and Trump becomes a force to be reckoned with. It remains to be seen whether his followers are voters beyond being fans.
Against all odds, and to his own surprise, Trump went on to win the Presidency and survive a fierce resistance from entrenched partisans who voted for his opponent. Now that effort to unseat him is intensifying leading up to this year’s general election. The rioting triggered by George Floyd’s death shows that the Producer/Parasite dichotomy is now overlaid with racial bigotry: Black Lives Good/ White Lives Bad. Premium brand items were targeted in the looting, justified by saying: “People deserve to have nice things.”
The Parasite claim comes through the the Black Lives Matter manifesto calling for freebies. #BlackLivesMatter movement bizarrely demands: “Reparations for…full and free access for all Black people (including undocumented and currently and formerly incarcerated people) to lifetime education…retroactive forgiveness of student loans, and support for lifetime learning programs.” See When a Hate Cult Took the Streets
The producer/parasite divide also appeared in governors’ priorities during lockdowns: Public Workers Essential/ Private Workers Nonessential. As some observed, knowledge workers and employees paid with tax dollars didn’t miss a check while taxpaying workers who make things were laid off. See Bad Idea: Politicians Decide Essential Business
And this gets at the heart of the contradiction between socialists’ focus on redistributing wealth vs. capitalists’ emphasis on producing wealth. In the current meme, capitalism and its artifacts must be destroyed to make way for the people’s paradise. It is remarkable that the ideological divide is opening up at all levels, Federal, State and City, including national policies and pandemic relief, state post-covid regulations and city policing priorities.
Another twist: This is not your stereotypical uprising of the poor against the rich. Ed West explains how and why upper middle class youth are in revolt against the “system” they see aligned against them. The essay at Unherd is Why the rich are revolting. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.
The Great Awokening and the 2020 protests are the product of growing radicalisation among the upper-middle-class
That year (1968), the United States was rocked by riots, assassinations and political crisis, and half a century later, history seems to be, if not repeating itself, then certainly rhyming. Yet while there are huge differences between the 1968 and 2020 disturbances, the one continuous theme running through both uprisings, and indeed all revolutions down the years, is the prominent role of the middle class. In particular, the upper-middle-class, the haute bourgeoise, are the driving force behind revolt and disorder throughout history, especially — as with today — when they feel they have no future.
Today’s unrest involves two sections of US society, African-Americans and upper-middle-class whites, who together form the axis of the Democratic Party, but it is the latter who are far more engaged in racial activism. The “Great Awokening”, the mass movement focused on eradicating racism in America and with a quasi-religious, almost hysterical feel to it, is dominated by the upper middle class.
The rich have always paradoxically been radical, something G.K. Chesterton observed over a hundred years ago when he wrote “You’ve got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came it would come from the poor. Why should it? The poor have been rebels, but they have never been anarchists: they have more interest than anyone else in there being some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country. The rich man hasn’t; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists.”
The wider Great Awokening, of which the 2020 disturbances are a part, is a very elite phenomenon, with progressive activists nearly twice as likely as the average American to make more than $100,000 a year, nearly three times as likely to have a postgraduate degree, and only one-quarter as likely to be black. Likewise with the radicalisation of American academia, with the safe spaces movement most prevalent at elite colleges, where students were much more likely to disinvite speakers or express more extreme views.
Meanwhile, the expansion of the university system has created what Russian-American academic Peter Turchin called ‘elite overproduction’, the socially dangerous situation where too many people are chasing too few elite places in society, creating “a large class of disgruntled elite-wannabes, often well-educated and highly capable… denied access to elite positions”.
So while around half of 18-year-olds are going onto college, only a far smaller number of jobs actually require a degree. Many of those graduates, under the impression they were joining the higher tier in society, will not even reach managerial level and will be left disappointed and hugely indebted. Many will have studied various activist-based subjects collectively referred to as ‘grievance studies’, so-called because they rest on a priori assumptions about power and oppression. Whether these disciplines push students towards the Left, or if it is just attending university that has this effect, people are coming out of university far more politically agitated.
This has been bubbling up for years — and then along came the coronavirus, throwing millions of people out of work, many from exactly the sort of sections most likely to cause trouble. And what makes it slightly spooky is that a few years back Turchin predicted that there would be a violent flashpoint in American politics — in 2020.